This year's opening dinner for the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival featured famed Montreal Chef and cookbook author Martin Picard from Au Pied du Cochon and The Sugar Shack. The dinner was for roughly 400 guests, held at an unlikely location in Little Italy that was kept secret until only a few days before the event. As lovely as the Sala San Marco on Preston Street is, the Italian banquet hall is quite a departure from The Sugar Shack. But in needing to expedite food to 400 people at once, this was a great venue to make it happen.
In planning for the event Martin insisted that his food be served only with Norman Hardie's wines. Norm's wines are such a perfect pairing with Martin's food as they both share an earthy/gamey/unfiltered/dirty/natural/raw essence. So Norm and I swung by the event to help out behind the scenes in the kitchen and chat about his County Pinot Noir and Niagara Chardonnay that were being featured. It turned out there wasn't much help required in the kitchen as Martin brought 10 of his cooks from Montreal who looked like nothing short of a well oiled machine. All the reports I heard from the dining room accounted for the impressiveness of their food and the timing of service. Nothing was cold and everything was cooked perfectly...its not easy to do smoked pig's heads for 400 people at once!
After the dinner the crew moved on to Oz Cafe to taste Jamie's Gold Medal Plates winning Yak and crush a few beers. All in all a great night with an excellent group from Montreal. A dinner definitely worth $125/per person dining family-style with wine included. If you haven't been yet, definitely visit Martin's restaurants next time you're in Montreal, but be sure to book in advance...they're as popular there as they were in Ottawa!
Martin also has a pretty great TV show on the Food Network called The Wild Chef featuring his journeys across Quebec exploring the cuisine and showing how he does what he does.